boston.com Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe

Patriots can count on Green in a pinch

FOXBOROUGH - In his previous five seasons with the Patriots, defensive lineman Jarvis Green became a football version of a clutch pinch hitter.

Yet with the Patriots surprisingly placing Richard Seymour on the physically-unable-to-perform list Saturday because of a knee injury - meaning he will be out for at least the first six weeks of the regular season - Green is a pinch hitter no more.

Instead, he figures to play a full-time role at right defensive end, the spot where Seymour has carved out a reputation as one of the NFL's best, earning five consecutive Pro Bowl berths.

Green wasn't aware that Seymour would be sidelined when he was approached in the team's locker room last week, but he was prepared for the possibility. Either way, he indicated his approach would not change as he attempts to build on a 2006 season in which he played in all 19 games (4 starts) and totaled career highs in sacks (7.5), tackles (57) and forced fumbles (3).

"It was the best year I've had since coming into the league, but my whole thing is that this is a new year and it's 'what have you done for me lately?' " said Green, who has filled in for Seymour in the past, the most recent long stretch coming with four straight starts in 2005. "Just like you do every year, you take a humble approach and work to get better, to improve your technique, to do what it takes to get on the field."

It's the same approach the 6-foot-3-inch, 285-pound Green noticed from veterans like Anthony Pleasant, Bobby Hamilton, and Rick Lyle when he first arrived as a fourth-round draft choice out of Louisiana State in 2002. Guidance from that trio left an indelible impression on Green, helping him accept his role as a super substitute in New England when he could have pursued a starting role elsewhere. Instead, he signed a five-year contract extension before the 2005 season.

"Those guys were very humble, and they taught me about the reality of the team, and what a team is," said Green, who has missed just two games over his career, suiting up in 89 regular-season and postseason contests (24 starts). "The reality of that grew on me. People now ask me why I'm not starting, or if I want to be a starter. I say the same thing those guys said back then. It doesn't matter. You just do your part and try to win football games."

In the Patriots' 3-4 alignment, the right defensive end is most often accountable for two gaps, meaning it is less about penetration and more focused on taking on linemen to control the line of scrimmage. While Green hasn't been a full-time starter, he's still logged a high percentage of snaps as a regular in the third-down defense, and also has rotated into the game on early downs, so his participation still has been in the 50-percent range.

Perhaps best known nationally for his performance in the 2003 AFC Championship Game - when he totaled 2 1/2 sacks of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning in a 24-14 victory - Green is actually known more inside the Gillette Stadium locker room for his consistency, a trait the team seeks.

"Jarvis is a good player for us. I think everybody has felt that for quite a while and I don't think there's been anything to change that feeling on Jarvis," coach Bill Belichick said. "He's a player that we all have a lot of confidence in."

Much like a baseball pinch hitter, Green said the most significant challenge he's faced in his role has been staying sharp, especially mentally, when he's not getting as many practice reps. But it's a role he's come to appreciate, especially given the rewards.

"Winning two Super Bowl championships, I would take that over having a big-sack season," said Green, a Louisiana native who is hosting a wine tasting Sept. 21 at the Johnson & Wales Inn in Seekonk to raise money for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

"A lot of guys play their entire careers and don't get to taste it, and I've tasted it twice. You want to have a chance to play for those type of goals, but even when you get there, you say 'what's next?' There is more to go get, and we're hungry to go get it."

Mike Reiss can be reached at mreiss@globe.com.

More from Boston.com

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES